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Christopher Howell
MusicWeb International, October 2012

After a strong, slightly measured opening flourish, Joseph Keilberth manages a very eloquent statement of the hymn-like main theme.

And then Annie Fischer enters. Listen to her play the repeated chords that make the third and fourth notes of the theme, and you may think you’ve never before heard them played with such tender wistfulness.

Another key moment is the start of the development. Keilberth has brought things to a head with a fine vitality, then as Fischer re-enters the scene is transformed into the most inward, twilight poetry. But the great thing is that Keilberth and the orchestra clearly realise something special is happening and are caught up in the rapt mood.

Do not think, though, that this performance is all hushed half-tones. There is plenty of fire when needed and the cadenza is rightly made the climax—structural as well as emotional—of the movement. It struck me that perhaps only in this concerto and the fifth Bach Brandenburg is the cadenza so completely integrated into the movement, forming the apex of its emotional arch.

Most performances of the second movement seem too fast and restless to me—more Allegretto than Andantino. So I loved every moment of Annie Fischer’s expansive, relaxed treatment. The sumptuous themes in the middle section belong mainly to the orchestra, and happily Keilberth seems fully agreed to take his time over them.

In the finale we find that it was not just Klemperer’s influence that resulted in a rather slow tempo in the famous EMI recording—this was clearly Fischer’s way with it. By combination, I had recently been listening to Boult conducting the first movement of Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony, where he takes an extraordinarily fast tempo, too fast for me. I felt that he was doing everything in his very considerable powers to make his tempo convincing. Everything, that is, except slow down a tad, which might have been the best thing of all. Here we seem to have the exactly opposite case. Having chosen a tempo that is surely just a bit too slow, Fischer does everything she can—and she does some truly lovely things—to make it work.

I must however point to one moment that justifies everything. After the orchestra has stated the syncopated, staccato, stalking second theme, most pianists seem uncertain whether to repeat it in the same manner. Fischer takes it into another world with her subtle, withdrawn poetry. The steady main tempo does mean that the coda can be considerably faster without becoming manic.

The “Eroica” Variations emphasize the verve and ebullience of early Beethoven, each variation characterized sharply and the fugue bringing it to a fine conclusion without trying to pretend it’s the “Eroica” Symphony—a later and more earth-shattering work.

The pure gold here is op.109. This is a superb demonstration of how to bring the notes off the page, drawing the listener up in each paragraph, erupting in the scherzo and gradually reaching the highest spiritual plane in the last movement, all in the context of a luminous sound and a natural musicality. Nothing is forced, but nor is anything held back. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2012

…Fischer’s performance of the “Eroica” Variations really takes off. Here, she seems to be in particularly felicitous form, her fingers dancing across the keyboard like a ballerina, alternately exuberant in spinning jetées or light and delicately on pointe. In her hands, dynamic changes do not occur in a conscious way; the music just ebbs and flows, almost of its own volition. I’ve not heard its like in all my life.

Similarly, the Sonata No. 30 is given a reading I can only describe as transcendent. After it was over, I refused to put another record on for 10 minutes. I was absolutely lost in the afterglow of this performance.

…if you love these Beethoven works, I tell you now, you will not want to live without this record. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, June 2012

hearing her in ICA Classics’ never-before-released recordings…you are made aware once more of Fisher’s robust poetry, of her economical, never inflated or exaggerated style…one of fiery engagement and a grateful sinking into repose in the first movement’s melting A flat episode. Here, exuberance and a certain classical sobriety combine to produce playing with an unfaltering ring of truth. In the more rarefied regions of the Op 109 Sonat…a transparent musicianship…allows you to hear Beethoven unclouded and unimpeded. This is a deeply gratifying issue and I can only wish that Fischer’s performances of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos with Klemperer and her turbulent readings of Schumann’s First and Chopin’s Second Sonatas were available on record. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

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